Most of our knowledge about the regulation and function of sleep is based on studies in a restricted number of mammalian species, particularly nocturnal rodents. Hence, there is still much to learn from comparative studies in other species. Birds are interesting because they appear to share key aspects of sleep with mammals, including the presence of two different forms of sleep, i.e. non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We examined sleep architecture and sleep homeostasis in the European starling, using miniature dataloggers for electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. Under controlled laboratory conditions with a 12:12 h light–dark cycle, the birds displayed a pronounced daily rhythm in sleep and wakefulness with most sleep occurring during the dark phase. Sleep mainly consisted of NREM sleep. In fact, the amount of REM sleep added up to only 1~2% of total sleep time. Animals were subjected to 4 or 8 h sleep deprivation to assess sleep homeostatic responses. Sleep deprivation induced changes in subsequent NREM sleep EEG spectral qualities for several hours, with increased spectral power from 1.17 Hz up to at least 25 Hz. In contrast, power below 1.17 Hz was decreased after sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation also resulted in a small compensatory increase in NREM sleep time the next day. Changes in EEG spectral power and sleep time were largely similar after 4 and 8 h sleep deprivation. REM sleep was not noticeably compensated after sleep deprivation. In conclusion, starlings display signs of NREM sleep homeostasis but the results do not support the notion of important REM sleep functions.